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THE ROYAL ANTHEM "SANSOEN PHRA BARAMI" — WHILE the Kingdom has been ruled by the monarchy for centuries, the Royal Anthem to praise the King was only initiated in the late 19th century by King Chulalongkorn – King Rama V – the ruler who modernised Thailand.
The initiative was first conceived by the king in 1871 when “God Save the Queen” was played during the welcoming ceremony for his visit to Singapore, then a British colony.
The same trip brought him to Indonesia, which was then the Dutch East Indies, according to “A Life’s Work”, a biography of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
When he returned to the Kingdom, King Chulalongkorn asked leading classical Thai musicians and songwriters to create a royal anthem.
Initially, they chose a song written during King Rama II’s reign, but later realised that the Thai traditional song was not easy to play for Western marching bands. Eventually, the Russian composer Pyotr Schurovsky’s music was selected, according to an account supervised by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun.
The lyrics were written by Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs and later modified by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). It has remained untouched since then.
The Royal Anthem has been played on many official occasions and royal ceremonies at which the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince or representatives of the King were present.
When the Royal Anthem is played, as is the practice in all cinemas across the Kingdom, and in major public entertainment venues and at sport events, the audience including foreigners are required to stand in silence to pay respects to the King.
In cinemas particularly, the anthem is accompanied onscreen by a visual hagiography of Their Majesties the King and the Queen as well as other members of Royal Family.
Disobedience, such as refusing to stand in the cinema, could be deemed a crime according to the 1942 National Culture Law or even constitute lese majeste.
The Royal Anthem was written in the reverential royal language, known as rajasap, which is mostly Pali, not Thai.
The book “A Life’s Work” provides an unofficial translation of the lyrics:
We, subjects of His Great Majesty,
Prostrate heart and head
To respect a King
Whose merits are boundless.
Sole and supreme sovereign,
Foremost in honour,
We are joyous because of his rule.
The fruits of his wisdom preserve
The people in happiness and peace.
May it be that
Whatever he wills shall be done
According to the hopes of his great heart
As we wish him victory, Hurrah!
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